Measuring Morality Publications

Researchers who register for access to the Measuring Morality project data agree to share publications and shared working papers that include information from the data set. As the data is increasingly used, these papers will be available here.


Stéphane Côté, Julian House, and Robb Willer. 2015. High economic inequality leads higher-income individuals to be less generous. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 

Recent research finds that higher-income individuals are less generous than lower-income individuals. This work has received widespread academic and media attention, but the formulation is likely oversimplistic because it neglects the role of economic inequality. We test a new, multilevel perspective on the relationship between income and generosity that incorporates economic inequality. In a nationally representative survey study and an experiment, we find that higher-income individuals are only less generous if they reside in a highly unequal area or when inequality is experimentally portrayed as relatively high. Our findings offer a more complete understanding of the association between income and generosity and have implications for contemporary debates about the social impact of unequal resource distributions.


Padilla-Walker, Laura Maria, and Lene Arnett Jensen. 2015. Validation of the long- and short-form of the Ethical Values Assessment (EVA): A questionnaire measuring the three ethics approach to moral psychology. International Journal of Behavioral Development

Moral psychology has been moving toward consideration of multiple kinds of moral concepts and values, such as the Ethics of Autonomy, Community, and Divinity. While these three ethics have commonly been measured qualitatively, the current study sought to validate the long and short forms of the Ethical Values Assessment (EVA), which is a questionnaire developed on the basis of the standard coding manual for the three ethics. Two studies were conducted, the first with a sample of 551 college students (18–29 years, 60% female, 61% European American) and the second with a nationally representative sample of 1,519 individuals (18–93 years, 51% female, 72% European American). Results from Study 1 indicated that a three factor solution using the EVA_L (long form) had adequate model fit, and internal reliability and validity of all three subscales were established. Results from Study 2 showed that model fit for a three-factor solution using the EVA_S (short form) was also acceptable. Measurement invariance as a function of age was established for some subscales and age groups, but not others. Discussion focuses on the implications of this measure for moral psychology and important future research directions. (Download article pdf here.)


Miles, Andrew, and Stephen Vaisey. 2015. “Morality and Politics: Comparing Alternate Theories.” Social Science Research 53 (September):252:269.

Debates about the American “culture wars” have led scholars to develop several theories relating morality to political attitudes and behaviors. However, researchers have not adequately compared these theories, nor have they examined the overall contribution of morality to explaining political variation. This study uses nationally representative data to compare the utility of 19 moral constructs from four research traditions – associated with the work of Hunter, Lakoff, Haidt, and Schwartz – for predicting political orientation (liberalism/conservatism). Results indicate that morality explains a third of the variation in political orientation – more than basic demographic and religious predictors – but that no one theory provides a fully adequate explanation of this phenomenon. Instead, political orientation is best predicted by selected moral constructs that are unique to each of the four traditions, and by two moral constructs that crosscut them. Future work should investigate how these moral constructs can be synthesized to create a more comprehensive theory of morality and politics.

This article is a revised and published version of the report listed below, “Comparing Alternate Theories of Moral Influence on Political Outcomes: A Research Report from the Measuring Morality Project.” Although the published version offers the latest iteration of our thought on the topic, we opted to post the original report as well because it contains substantially more information about the relationship between morality variables and specific political outcomes that researchers might find useful.


Paul K. Piff, Pia Dietze, Matthew Feinberg, Daniel M. Stancato, and Dacher Keltner. 2015. “Awe, the Small Self, and Prosocial Behavior.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 108(6): 883-899.

Awe is an emotional response to perceptually vast stimuli that transcend current frames of reference. Guided by conceptual analyses of awe as a collective emotion, across five studies (N = 2,078) we tested the hypothesis that awe can result in a diminishment of the individual self and its concerns, and increase prosocial behavior. In a representative national sample (Study 1), dispositional tendencies to experience awe predicted greater generosity in an economic game above and beyond other prosocial emotions (e.g., compassion). In follow-up experiments, inductions of awe (relative to various control states) increased ethical decision-making (Study 2), generosity (Study 3), and prosocial values (Study 4). Finally, a naturalistic induction of awe in which participants stood in a grove of towering trees enhanced prosocial helping behavior and decreased entitlement compared to participants in a control condition (Study 5). Mediational data demonstrate that the effects of awe on prosociality are explained, in part, by feelings of a small self. These findings indicate that awe may help situate individuals within broader social contexts and enhance collective concern.


Miles, Andrew. 2014. “Demographic Correlates of Moral Differences in the Contemporary United States.” Poetics 46:75-88.

This research note examines the relationships between several well-established morality measures and an extensive set of demographic variables using Bayesian model averaging (BMA), a statistical technique that better captures uncertainty in parameter estimates. Results show that gender, age cohort, and religious affiliation predict the widest range of moral constructs, followed by education and marital status. Comparison with earlier work suggests that gender, age, and religious affiliation are important predictors of morality generally.


Miles, Andrew and Stephen Vaisey. 2014. “Comparing Alternate Theories of Moral Influence on Political Outcomes: A Research Report from the Measuring Morality Project.”

Drawing on work from sociology, psychology, and linguistics that theorizes connections between morality and politics, this paper uses 29 different moral constructs and 15 political outcomes to answer two basic questions: 1. How much does morality really matter for politics? 2. Which moral constructs are the most important for understanding political differences?


Johnson, Kate M. Ravi Iyer, Sean P. Wojcik, Stephen Vaisey, Andrew Miles, Veronica Chu, and Jesse Graham. 2014. “Ideology-Specific Patterns of Moral Indifference Predict Intentions Not to Vote.” Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy. DOI: 10.1111/asap.12039

This paper examined the relationship between morality and voting using five data sets and four scales measuring moral values to test whether past voting behavior and future voting intentions are related to both individuals’ overall moral concerns as well as whether they match or mismatch with their political group’s moral concerns.


Vaisey, Stephen, and Andrew Miles. 2014. “Tools from Moral Psychology for Measuring Personal Moral Culture.” Theory and Society 43(3-4):311–32.
This paper argues that individual-level moral goods and prohibitions can be measured using well-established instruments for values and moral foundations, respectively. Both values and moral foundations are distributed across the social landscape in systematic, sociologically interesting ways, and can be used in survey research as well as to analyze interview, archival, or “big” data. Combining psychological and sociological tools and frameworks promises to clarify relations among existing sociological treatments of moral culture, and to connect such treatments to a thriving conversation in moral psychology.